Some call it the miracle vine, while others refer to it as a silent killer. This plant, originally from Japan and introduced to the U.S. in the 1870s, covers seven million acres of the deep South. Regardless of personal opinion, one thing is agreed upon: Kudzu is taking over.
“Killer Kudzu” is the winner of the 2014 Oxford Film Festival’s community film project. Several films were submitted for the competition and read by the festival directors. The submissions were voted on, and “Killer Kudzu” was chosen as the overall winner.
The premiere of “Killer Kudzu” will begin the festival’s lineup at 7:30 tonight.
The film tells the story of how a town must come together when a mutant vine tries to take over, according to the Oxford Film Festival website. Not only does the community film address a local issue, but it also strengthens and brings people together.
“Killer Kudzu” screenwriter and Oxford native Felicity Flesher has always been fascinated by the kudzu plant, which can grow up to a foot per day. She saw the plant as a perfect horror movie villain and a threat to the local community, which must unite and work together to stop it from spreading.
“As a born-and-bred Oxonian, I know what a beautiful, proud and strong place Oxford is, and I imagined that if a mutant vine took over town, its people would undoubtedly join together to defend their home,” Flesher said as posted on the film festival’s website.
Director Meaghin Burke said she appreciated working on a film that incorporated specifically local features.
“As a sixth-generation Mississippian, it was wonderful to get to work on a film about something as Southern as kudzu,” Burke said. “Felicity Flesher wrote a fabulous script that really highlights some of the charming things about our little city.”
This year marks the 11th anniversary of the festival and the fourth annual community film project. Although the screenwriters did not have to be from Oxford, all were required to take into consideration the physical environment and aspects of the local community.
Kodak and Panavision were sponsors for the first community film, according to Executive Director Molly Fergusson.
“We wanted to do something to highlight their products,” she said. “We also wanted to find a way to get more of the community involved with the festival and the filmmaking in general.”
Apart from the cinematographer and some of the crew, everyone involved in the production of the film was local, including actors and craft services. The community film presents an opportunity for locals to experience the filmmaking process first hand and determine their strengths.
“We felt that if more of the community could see what was involved in making a film, then they would be more enthusiastic about working on other productions that were starting to happen and start making films of their own,” Fergusson said.
— Joanie Sanders